Conducting Global Team-Based Ethnography: Methodological Challenges and Practical Methods
Human Relations 68(1), pp.3-33
36 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2016
Date Written: January 15, 2015
Ethnography has often been seen as the province of the lone researcher; however, increasingly management scholars are examining global phenomena, necessitating a shift to global team-based ethnography. This shift presents some fundamental methodological challenges, as well as practical issues of method, that have not been examined in the literature on organizational research methods. That is the focus of this paper. We first outline the methodological implications of a shift from single researcher to team ethnography, and from single case site to the multiple sites that constitute global ethnography. Then we present a detailed explanation of a global, team-based ethnographic research project that we conducted over three years. Our study of the global reinsurance industry involved a team of five ethnographers conducting fieldwork in 25 organizations across 15 countries. We outline three central challenges we encountered; team division of labour, team sharing, and constructing a global ethnographic object. The paper concludes by suggesting that global, team-based, ethnography provides important insights into global phenomena, such as regulation, finance, and climate change among others, that are of interest to management scholars.
Keywords: Ethnography, Globalization, Team-based research, Global Practice
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